Thunia Attributes

Level: 4
Laws: Magic
Playable Races: Human, Thunian
Foci: Carries A Quiver, Entertains, Looks For Trouble, Slays Dragons, Solves Mysteries, Wields Two Weapons At Once, Enchants the Mind, Evokes Elemental Forces, Manipulates Magic Itself
Skills: Community
Connection to the Strange: Thunia hangs like a Christmas ornament, surrounded on all sides by the Strange. To reach it, one must either fly up from the surface or climb out onto one of its corner spires and simply float away. Unfortunately, Thunian flight magics don't work once you get out into the Strange, so for the most part they don't have the means to explore it.
Connection to Earth: None
Age and Size: Old Recursion
Spark: 50%
Trait: Libido Magic: Sexual activity is required to recover intellect pool. This activity can be solo, but when a willing partner is involved in the recovery, an extra point of intellect is recovered.

What A Recursor Knows About Thunia

  • Thunia works under the laws of magic, but it is a highly structured magic that shades into psionics.

  • In Thunia, all magic wielders are intersex, with three primary varieties; Mavin, Madia, and Mafact.

  • Thunia is a tiny octahedral world, where each face is its own city-state.

  • Men and Women, who do not have magical talents, are considered inferior, and are limited in their ability to advance in the Thunian social hierarchy.

Bonus Focus: Shapes Living Things

Why come to Thunia?

A mysterious wizard, fleeing equally mysterious pursuers, comes to Earth and contacts the PC’s looking for protection. Before she can meet up with them, however, she disappears. But she leaves behind a portal key leading to the realm that has kidnapped her.


Thunia is an octahedron of fundament that was settled and engineered in ages long past. Its faces are largely flat, covered mostly with farmland and small towns, with a centrally located city. Each face has its own gravity, oriented perpendicular to the surface.

The edges have sharp peaks of fundament stretching miles above the surface, creating barren mountain ranges that are very difficult to cross. Gravity can shift over short stretches and storms are commonplace. The city-states expend considerable effort pin keeping trade routes open under these barriers, resorting to tunnels rather than attempting to traverse the dangerous surface.

At the six points where these edges meet, huge spires of fundament project miles above the mountains. Gravity near a spire is oriented toward the spire’s shaft, allowing structures to be built along its length. Traversing further out on the spire, gravity becomes weaker and weaker, until one can simply drift off into the Strange.

Thunia spins on its axis once every thirty-two hours. It receives warmth and light from a construct that hangs in the sky a few thousand miles away, an icosahedron of glowing fundament that is believed to have been created at some point in the distant past.


Each region has a thirty-two hour day. “Night” is when the Thunian “sun” is not visible in the sky at all, and lasts sixteen hours. The four hour period of time while the sun is rising over a region’s eastern shard-wall, casting its shadow across the region, is “Morning.” The time when neither shard-wall casts a shadow within the region, is “Day,” which lasts eight hours. The four hours that the sun sets over the region’s western shard-wall is “Evening.” The moment during morning or evening when the shard-wall shadow passes over a given spot (which will vary depending on where the spot is) is known as “shadow-pass.” During the night, the primary light source is the glow that comes through the shard-walls from sunlight shining through from the other side. This is no brighter than starlight on Earth, and becomes dimmer the closer to midnight it is. There is a period of total darkness in the deepest part of the night, when neither shard-wall glows at all. This is called “Midnight” but unlike on a globe, this is a ten minute period of time rather than a single moment. Thunians talk about things happening “during midnight” rather than “at midnight.”


The northern half of Thunia is generally warmer than the southern half, its air tends to rise, drawing air in from the south. As that air crosses the shardwalls it generates a great deal of turbulence, which in turn spawns storms. These are unpredictable and can become quite fierce, making the land near the shard-walls even more inhospitable.

Genetics, Genders, and Magic in Thunia

There are three gender chromosomes in Thunia. There are the usual X and Y chromosomes that we understand on Earth, plus one more, labeled “T” which can take the place of X or Y, or both. The T chromosome allows access to magic. The five possible combinations of these genes creates the five Thunians genders:

  • XX – “Woman”

  • XY – “Man”

  • TT – “Mavin” – Fully functioning hermaphrodite. Full use of magic. These are the ruling class.

  • XT – “Madia” – Mostly female, with enlarged, erectile . Limited magic. Can bear children but not father them. Administrators and supervisors.

  • TY – “Mafact” – Androgynous male, with . Limited magic. Can father children but not bear them. Restricted to monasteries.


A stranger with (that is, anyone but a man) is referred to with a female pronoun. For people who are more familiar, the Thunian language has a third pronoun for the magic-using sexes, but for ease of reading in this document, we shall use the feminine pronouns throughout.

Dress and Presentation

Presenting as another gender than one’s body is considered a serious social gaffe. A man or woman dressing as a madia, mavin or mafact would be seen as overstepping their place in the hierarchy; in reverse, they would be assumed to be attempting to conceal their magic for some nefarious purpose. Madias, mavins and mafacts dress to emphasize their differences from men and women, in order to assert their higher status.

Disaster Children

T chromosomes come in seven varieties, each associated with a different flavor of magic in Thunia. A mavin embryo with two copies of a given T chromosome is certain to suffer from magical birth defects that are powerful enough to destroy whole communities. For this reason, reproduction between people with magical talents is carefully planned to make sure that they do not share any magical specialties. Pregnancies suspected of bearing a disaster child are nearly always terminated as soon as they are discovered.

The Limitations of Magic

Water, in relatively pure form, drains magic. A mage who is immersed in water up to her neck cannot cast at all, and even if she is only covered to her waist, all spellcasting is two levels more difficult. In addition, submerging something in water for a few minutes generally removes any magical effects that may be on it. It is for this reason that delicate negotiations are held in a bath, in order to avoid any untoward magical influences.



Economic activity on Thunia works differently than in many other places. Because elements that are rare elsewhere (such as gold, silver, etc.) can be forged out of fundament itself, there’s no good medium of exchange to use as money. Instead, trade between towns is handled by means of bartering, often prearranged according to long-standing contracts. Within a settlement, the system is more informal; it’s in everyone’s best interests if everyone has what they need to do their jobs. This skill represents the character’s ability to sway people in the community, more than their connection to the community itself. Those connections, such as having saved the settlement from a rampaging chimera, are better handled as assets. 

To a great extent, the “wealth” of an individual is in her respect and standing in her community, rather than her material possessions. There are very few ‘treasures’ in Thunia, though there is much of value. The further one is from one’s home, the thinner the bonds of community and the less your reputation at home matters. From a neighboring town: +1 difficulty; from another town in the same region: +2 difficulty; from another region: +4 difficulty; from a different subculture (town, palace, monastery, wilderness) +2 difficulty.

Task Difficulty:

  • Provide basic gear required to perform your function in the community, or give you food and shelter for a day: 1

  • Provide a magelock musket (palace only): 2
  • Give you A sheaf of 20 blackglass arrows, a spear with a blackglass head, or a blackglass knife: 3

  • Assign you your own space in a communal dwelling: 4
  • Build you a modest home in the community: 6
  • Build you an unusually nice home in the community: 8

This system can break down for people, however, when they fail to conform to their community’s expectations. A farmer who decides he wants to abandon his farm and become a merchant might have a hard time getting the town to give him a wagon. Such situations can dramatically increase the difficulty of the skill check.

Monsters in Thunia

Very rarely, a disaster child survives its birth and escapes the ruins of its home, becoming an immortal embodiment of the magical influence it inherited. They are generally extremely powerful, capable of channeling nearly unlimited magical energy. In ancient times, these elementals were more common, but in modern times they are extremely rare.

Humanity isn’t the only species blessed with the ability to use magic. Other species can spawn magically-gifted individuals, though humanity is the only one with the “T” chromosome. Other species have their magic genes elsewhere in the genome, and use magic differently.

For the most part, the genes are recessive, and any magical beasts you encounter are homozygous. As a result, magical creatures can arise from matings between mundane organisms, if both carry the appropriate genes.

Here is a list of some animals, and their magical counterparts:

  • Pheasant, Chicken, Turkey -> Cockatrice

    • Tier 3, Health 9, Damage 3, Armor 2, Movement Short, a successful attack requires the target to make a might defense roll or lose one level on the damage track.

  • Newt or Salamander -> Fiery Salamander

    • Tier 4, Health 12, Damage 4, Armor 1, Movement Short, immune to fire damage, any damage from water or ice causes it to lose its next action

  • Firefly -> Will-o-wisp

    • Tier 2, Health 7, Damage 2, Movement Short, speed defense at tier 5, can turn invisible and immaterial as an action.

  • Deer -> White Stag

    • Tier 5, Health 20, Damage 5, Armor 1, Movement Long

  • Crocodilians -> Dragon

    • Tier 6, Health 40, Damage 6, Armor 3, Movement Short (long while flying), speed defense at tier 4, can breathe a gout of flame that does 5 damage to all targets within immediate range of a spot within short range.

  • Felines -> Chimeras (various)

Chimeras are a special case. These animals are born normal, but are able to absorb traits from their prey and express them as new body parts. For example, chimeric lion that manages to and eat an eagle might become a griffon. This gene can be found in nearly all feline species, so it is quite common in urban areas to see the occasional house cat flying around on raven wings. For some unknown reason (perhaps relating to the nature of the magic) this generally only happens if the cat consumes a meat-eater, but there are exceptions. The most dangerous chimeras are those that have consumed human flesh.

Another class of magical creature are those who have the gene for gigantism; many species will sometimes manifest a form of life magic that allows them to grow to much larger size than normal. This is most common in arthropods (allowing giant spiders, scorpions, ants, etc.) but has also been known to happen in vertebrates, leading to such things as dire wolves. There is evidence that Thunians once had a gigantism gene, but it became extinct at some time in the past.

Finally, animals are not the only organisms that can manifest magical individuals. The mandrake, for example, is a manifestation of magical genes in the nightshade plant.

Sidebar: Giant Spiders

Most palaces maintain a dark, secure stone building for the purpose of raising giant web-spinning spiders, known as a “webbery.” A webbery usually contains hundreds of these creatures, ranging in size from a soup bowl up to a cart wheel.

They are generally fed on the blood of animals butchered in the town, which would otherwise go to waste. Most varieties are bred to be docile and to have weak bites, though House Quintosen has specially bred spiders whose neurotoxic venom, in diluted form, is used as a basis for hallucinogenic formulations.

Silk his harvested by servants, who draw the silk from the spiders as they are feeding. The silk is wound onto spools, from which it can be spun into thread, then woven into cloth or twisted into strong cords. The coarsest fibers from the largest spiders are used for ropes, fabric for armor. Finer threads make for finer weaves, down to the wispiest of gossamer.

A Short History of Thunia

The Origin of Thunia

Noone knows how Thunia originally came to be settled. If scientists knowledgeable in such things were to analyze the Thunian people carefully, they could discover ancestry related to the people of Ruk, but enough time has passed that it might as well be its own recursion.

The Age of Disasters

There was a time, centuries ago, when the genders mixed freely, and few if any understood how disaster children came to be. All anyone knew, was that if magic was used in a community, sooner or later it would be destroyed. Either it would be flattened by a hurricane, engulfed in madness, obliterated in fire, crushed in an earthquake, or otherwise erased from existence. Civilization, beset by these constant setbacks, could not take hold. Any significant gathering of people would eventually fall victim to a magical cataclysm.

People were very suspicious of magic, and violently oppressed those who practiced it, but that wasn’t enough; even if magical talents went completely unused, eventually two copies of the same T chromosome would be born into the same person, and that would be that. Those that survived remained tribal and nomadic.

Some tribes managed to connect magical talents with hermaphrodite genders (mavins, mafacts and madias) and expunged them from their gene pool, but there were always a few left, and the advantages for a tribe to have a few magical practitioners often outweighed the risks, so they survived in a small minority of the human population. During this time there were almost no mavins; most magical practitioners were madias or mafacts, because the number of T chromosomes was so small.

The Age of Cities

Eventually, the cause of the recurring magical disasters was discovered and the knowledge spread, allowing the founding of cities and the accumulation of magical lore. Two people who shared the same magical talent could not mate; this became the ironclad rule, the ultimate taboo, and those communities that enforced it thrived and grew.

Magical practitioners within those thriving cities prospered as well, and they rose quickly to leadership of those communities. Among those practitioners, the most powerful rose to the highest levels of power, which of course were the mavins. As the details of magical genetics became more widely and thoroughly understood, the tradition of exiling mafacts was instituted, in order to cement power within particular families; this control of mafacts meant no mavins would be born outside of a noble house.

Civilization spread first along the Lorosh river, in a string of loosely allied city-states. As civilization spread from there, new noble houses were founded, generally as city-states at the mouths of rivers.

The Age of Monasteries

Magic was still not without its dangers, however. Even though the threat of magical reproduction had mostly been understood and contained, the dangers of magic itself were still somewhat uncontrolled. As they competed with each other, noble houses strove to outdo each other in feats of magical creation and destruction, and in the process brought down calamities greater than anything ever invoked by a disaster child. Cities were laid waste, land was despoiled, and countless thousands of people killed.

This changed about five hundred years ago. There were already communities of exiled mafacts on the fringes of civilized lands, living under suspicion and distrust. When one group was offered the opportunity to integrate with civilization, opening up possibilities for trade and commerce if they would perform the dangerous magical experiments that could not be safely done in the cities, they were happy to oblige, and this is how the monasteries were created, located in the huge fundament spires that project from the points of Thunia’s geography.

The Age of Books

While the monastery system permitted a great deal of progress in the magical arts, it was still limited by the difficulty of storing all of the research information discovered in the course of their studies. Paper books were still vulnerable to the same sorts of disasters that befell the monasteries, and their great caches of knowledge were destroyed from time to time. Magical knowledge, which had grown a great deal since the establishment of the monastery system, stagnated once again.

This changed about two hundred years ago when a team of mafacts at Zambera monastery, led by Harnik Rulith perfected a means by which text and diagrams could be inscribed within the matter of a specially treated pentagonal crystal. These crystals have turned out far more resilient than paper books, and have permitted scholars to literally pick up where their dead predecessors left off. Harnik Rulith was permitted to found a new noble house in reward for zir work, and his daughter, the mavin Uella Rulith, was granted the title of matriarch in spite of zir technically mis-born status.

The Age of Worlds

Three years ago, a team of mafacts at Urkabisen Monastery, working in secret, managed to open an inapposite gate into another world. They were dissidents, prisoners of the monastery, and they used this gate to escape. The ritual destroyed their monastery. Whether this was an attempt to destroy their notes, or an unintended side effect is unknown. In any case, their notes were recovered and reconstructed. A few months thereafter, a safer version of their ritual was repeated, and the gate was reopened, but teams sent through to search for them were unable to find the culprits in the dangerous, uncivilized world they found on the other side, and it was assumed that the dangers of this recursion had killed them.

This turned out to be a false assumption. Work refining the techniques for opening the gates discovered that the dissidents had not escaped to that world (which had by that time been named Emria), but in fact had found their way to a third recursion, one that was inhabited. The people of this world did not have the T chromosome, or else if it had, it had died out. Teams were dispatched into this world to learn what had happened to the escaped dissidents and bring back any offspring they might have fathered while they were there.

That world was Ardeyn.

The Genders in Detail

Gender: Mavin

Chromosome makeup: TT

Mavins are fully functional hermaphrodites, equipped with a that emerges from the upper part of a somewhat enlarged . They can range from somewhat masculine to somewhat feminine in form, but they are always rather androgynous. Voice usually ranges from tenor to alto, and they have downy, mostly invisible body hair. The shape of the pelvis is feminine, and they have a tendency toward a feminine hip-to-waist ratio. They usually have prominent, feminine-shaped . Mavins can both father children, and bear them. They have internal “testaries” which produce both eggs and . Mavins have a monthly cycle, and will not produce during the female-fertile portion of the cycle, preventing self-fertilization.

Mavins have two T chromosomes, one of which is dominant. The second chromosome enhances the first, revealing itself as a ‘flavor’ to the main power. For example, a mavin whose dominant element was fire but who also bears the T chromosome for force might find that zir powers exerted some pressure on the target as well as heat and flame.

A mavin’s social status depends a great deal on the manner of zir birth. A mavin born of two mavins is considered “high-born” and holds the highest status in Three Worlds culture. They almost always grow up with the best advantages in education and welfare, and usually have a particular future mapped out for them by the time they are five years old.

Sometimes, a mavin will impregnate a madia, or have take a mafact to her bed and become pregnant herself. While this is considered evidence of carelessness on the part of the mavin (birth control is well known by means both mundane and magical) there is usually a purpose behind it; it may be a gift to the madia or mafact in question, or it may be an attempt to create a child with a particular combination of magical talents that would be useful to the palace.

In any case, mavins born from these pairings are considered “mis-born” and do not enjoy the same advantages that high-born mavins do. They do not stand to inherit, and often take up military leadership, adventuring, or other dangerous professions as a result. They are viewed with suspicion by nobles and common-folk alike. With dedication and loyalty, however, a mis-born mavin can transcend zir status and earn a place in the ruling class. Others become renegades, seeking to create outside of society what has been forbidden to them within it. Lately, many mis-born mavins have emigrated to Emria, founding new noble houses in the wilderness. These frontier houses do not have the same prestige as the millennia-old houses of Thunia, but they offer far more freedom than would otherwise be available.

Mis-born and high-born mavins, together, make up about 2% of the population of the First World, and about 5% of the population of Emria. Most of them are found in larger settlements.

Extremely rarely (since mavins are generally careful not to mate with anyone they share magical specialties with) a mavin will be born with two copies of the same magical talent. In these individuals, a synergistic relationship between the two copies of the chromosome causes an uncontrolled release of magical power. Elemental specialists are transformed into living embodiments of their element; either sylph, undine, troll or salamander. Those with the life talent become shapeshifters. A child with the mind talent becomes a chaotist, receiving and re-broadcasting the thoughts of everyone around her. A child with two chromosomes for the power talent becomes magical amplifier, causing the spells of everyone around them to fluctuate wildly and uncontrollably.

The lowest and rarest status is accorded to mavins that are born from a madia and a mafact. Such contact is very rare, and only a quarter of such pregnancies result in a mavin birth. Since a mavin born this way has no mavin parent, they are separate from the strictures on inheritance that bind other mavins, and as a result they have magical power without the social controls to limit it. When discovered, they are ruthlessly pursued by the authorities.

Gender: Madia

Chromosomes: XT

Madias are usually the product of mating between a mavin (TT) and a woman (XX) but they can also result if a woman mates with a mafact (YT). It is much rarer for a madia to bear children at all (see below) but a madia birth is possible if they mate with a man, mafact or mavin. Physically, they are mostly female and are generally indistinguishable from a woman except for an enlarged , similar in size ranges to the human . They can bear children, but cannot father them. They can work magic, but not with the natural skill and power of a mavin, requiring greater study to obtain competency.

When the matriarch of a noble house wishes to create a madia, the usual way to do it is to recruit a woman from somewhere within zir domain to bear the child. If the mavin does not zirself have the magical specialization that ze wishes the woman to bear, then ze will usually recruit a visiting mavin to handle the impregnation. Since there’s only a fifty-fifty chance that the child will be born with the particular T chromosome desired, usually two or three women are impregnated.

For some women, this duty is an honor and a privilege; for some, for some it’s just a fact of life. It is extremely rare for a woman to be forced into such service. Women who serve this way are well treated, and often serve the noble house in other capacities when they’re not pregnant.

Socially, madias are the administrators, supervisors, and military officers, as long as they were born within a noble house. It may seem paradoxical, but those born to human women, being planned pregnancies within the strictures of the society of Thunia, hold higher status than those born to other genders. As with mavins, those born to women are considered high-born, whereas others are mis-born.

Madias are generally kept an eye on, either by each other or by the mavins. They are allowed to have , but becoming pregnant is generally forbidden. Since any noble house worth the name keeps a healer on hand, this is not generally a problem, as contraceptive spells are widely known.

Gender: Mafact

Chromosomes: TY

Mafacts are almost always a result of a socially-unacceptable mating. Of all of them, man (XY) to mavin (TT) is the least problematic. Mafact to woman and man to madia are worse, and mafact to madia is completely forbidden.

Physically, mafacts are indistinguishable from mavins except for the lack of , and the presence of external testicles. They can father children but cannot bear them. Their can lactate if properly stimulated, especially if a little magical help is given to get them started. In fact, this is commonly done when infant mafacts are brought to a monastery.

Mafacts are generally considered, by the noble houses, to be useless at best, and dangerous at worst. They can’t do anything, magically, that a madia can’t do just as well, and they offer a considerable risk (if reproducing with a madia) of creating a mavin with no direct noble parentage. As a result, any mafacts which are found are forced to join one of the monasteries where their talents are used for magical research. Those that don’t excel at intellectual activities are assigned to support roles. Mafacts which repeatedly escape from the monasteries, or resist being put in one in the first place, are killed.

The paradox of the mafact monasteries is that they perform useful research. The recent discovery of rituals to open interdimensional gates to the Second and Third Worlds would not have been possible without the contribution of these dedicated centers of knowledge. Noble houses go out of their way to stay on friendly terms with the monasteries, in order not to be left out of any discoveries they might make. This usually involves sending a certain quota of mafacts to the monastery in order to keep up their population; when this can’t be met by hunting down renegade mafacts, they sometimes must make do by having a man impregnate a mis-born mavin. Often, this is the mavin whose job was to find a rogue mafact, but failed.

Gender: Man and Woman

Chromosomes: XY and XX

Physically, men and women in Thunia are no different from men and women on Earth or Ardeyn. They generally cannot use magic, even to invoke spells that have been stored in an object.

Socially, men and women can never be more than commoners. Their inability to use magic excludes them from anything but menial labor or at best minor clerical functions. Depending on the governance of their home community, a commoner’s life could be relatively free or horribly oppressed.

Commoners have their own subculture distinct from the noble houses and the monasteries, though to some extent it overlaps with both. Most commoners are farmers, herders, or crafters, and live either in the large cities and towns associated with noble house palaces, or else in small villages nearby. Most folks are born, grow up, marry, have children, and die in one community.

Marriage and monogamy are expected for commoners. Men who are uncomfortable with this situation often find that moving to the domain associated with a monastery is more to their liking. Likewise, women who do not prefer the company of men can find more acceptance as a servant in a palace. A commoner is generally expected to choose one of these three lifestyles before they are older than twenty, and most do long before that.


Given the wide variety of body forms in Thunia, people don’t generally think about orientation in the same way we do; there’s more recognition of the nuances that can color preference and orientation. Instead of being oriented toward a gender, people are thought of as being oriented toward monogamy or polyamory, toward gentleness or roughness, etc. While people often have preferences as to the organs possessed by their lovers, this is not a topic for much commentary. It just is what it is.

Generally speaking, people who grow up in a Town subculture see two options; either accept the (mostly) monogamous marriage structure, or leave it to join another subculture. Some are comfortable taking that choice, some are not; people give up a lot when they leave the support of their families behind. Marriage is the means by which families are formed and clans are strengthened. It is the foundation of the social structure of the town.

The Palace atmosphere places a lot more emphasis on hierarchy, politics, secrets, lies, loyalty and betrayal. Devotion and affection must be kept secret lest they be exploited by rivals, and favors are social currency. This makes deep relationships difficult to form and difficult to maintain, though that doesn’t stop people from trying. The use of magic makes the palace environment unusually sexually charged, and mages often take breaks during the day to relieve their tensions.

In the Monastery environment, activity is seen as a necessary release. It’s common for mafacts within a research group to partner with each other, as they are the people nearest to hand after a particularly demanding spell has been cast. If you’re not attracted to the people around you, then that’s a good thing because you won’t be distracted by relationships and emotional drama. If you are, then you should quietly do something about it and get back to work. Long-term relationships are neither expected nor respected.

Renegades express their rebellion against the norms of the other three societies by rejecting all three restrictions. They neither require nor condemn marriage, they don’t play games with it, and they don’t require asceticism. Anyone’s personal expression is welcome as long as it doesn’t make trouble for others. In some ways, their sexuality has the most freedom, but at the same time the lack of social norms and scripts can leave people confused and tentative in their interactions.

Technology in Thunia

Thunia lacks the one thing that made the industrial revolution possible on Earth, and that is easily accessible sources of energy. Without coal or petroleum, they make do with wind, water, and muscle power, and of course magic. In the cases where only fire will do (and magic is not available) they use wood or charcoal, but that becomes expensive quickly, as trees must be farmed. It is for this reason, for example, that most people do not have their own ovens; people bring bread, etc. to large communal bakeries, where either fuel or magic power can be used communally.

People construct buildings out of whatever is available locally, because transporting large amounts of materials long distances is expensive. When there is clay, such as near most rivers, people make their homes out of brick. In rural areas, stone and sod is common. Particularly wealthy individuals use fundament taken from the barrier walls, but while this produces unusually strong buildings, it requires regular applications of magic to keep the material stable.

There is almost no mass production on Thunia (except in House Tendsen) but that does not mean there is no science or high technology. Instead, anything advanced is individually crafted, usually by means of magic. Many mages find employment in magical crafting.

Agriculture is a highly developed science. Life mages can separate seeds with useful traits before they’re even sown, pick breeding stock before they’re grown, and create hybrids with a fair degree of confidence in the result. Earth mages can assess soil content with a high degree of accuracy. They are able to achieve high yields without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

Likewise, they can produce highly efficient medicines, though not in huge quantities. Drugs exist to treat a wide variety of illnesses, and can be individually crafted to a particular patient, if the needed skills are available.

Long-distance communications are sent by signal towers that flash messages using mirrors and telescopes. Messages that need to be kept secret are sent by courier. At one time, House Morm maintained a system of direct mind-to-mind communications, but this system was abandoned.

Transportation is horse-drawn coaches or walking. House Calden has begun building lighter-than-air balloons, which are now giving them a decided advantage in this arena, especially with their specialization in air magic.


Spun Glass

This material is similar to fiberglass but is formed using magic. Silica sand, limestone, clay and other minerals are heated to a precise temperature using fire magic and then shaped using earth magic into microscopic strands and placed in wooden molds and forms to give them shape. Once cool, the item is removed from the form and encased in resin to stabilize the fibers. The resulting material has a sparkling amber luster. Most palaces have at least one glass-spinner. It is not strong enough to use as a blade, but it is common for utilitarian objects like bowls, vases, barrels, boat hulls, and cart frames. Bows are often made from specially-treated spun glass.


This material is much more difficult to work than spun glass, but much stronger. Starting with charcoal, mages of fire, life and air work together to shape carbon crystals into a precisely engineered structure. The fire mage provides heat, the life mage arranges the carbon, and the air mage prevents it from catching fire by denying oxygen to the working. One of the most common forms is a blade, with a diamond-sharp edge that blends seamlessly into a more flexible blade of interlaced carbon fibers. Once finished and polished, this sort of blade is a glossy black, and is sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel. Generally speaking, they cannot be made in forms larger than about a pound, due to the limitations of magical workings, though with coordination between several mages, something as large as a sword can be constructed. Expense increases exponentially with size, however, so such weapons are rare. Most blackglass weapons are arrowheads, knives, or spear-points.

Due to their extreme sharpness, weapons of blackglass do 1 extra point of damage, and ignore one point of armor. They are prone to breakage, however. GM Intrusions against wielders of blackglass weapons will usually involve the weapon shattering. They generally cannot be repaired.


Gunpowder is known in Thunia but firearm development has been limited. Complex repeating weapons like revolvers are known, but very expensive because of the many complicated parts required to make them work. Most weapons are single-shot breechloaders with ignition systems that require magical talent to fire, which are collectively known as “magelocks.”

A “sparklock” can be fired by an air or fire mage, and has the simplest construction, with a simple hole leading to the powder chamber. A flash of flame or a pop of lightning sets it off. A sparklock takes two rounds to load and does 4 points of damage at long range.

A “dewlock” uses a special powder which ignites when the wielder summons a drop of water into it. A dewlock takes two rounds to load and does 4 points of damage at long range.

A “stonelock” is a completely different system, using a chain reaction of steel spheres and powerful magnets to fire bullets at high velocity without the use of propellants. Without the stabilizing magic of the operator, the weapon would shatter when used. A stonelock takes one round to load and does 3 points of damage at long range.

Renegades sometimes adapt captured magelocks into matchlock weapons that are usable by anyone, but these are highly illegal in civilized areas and are considered evidence of criminal intent. A matchlock takes two rounds to load and does 4 points of damage at long range.

Wind Cloak

This is a silken cloak, fastened at the shoulders, wrists, waist and ankles. This allows skilled air mages to fly on powerful blasts of wind.

Daredevil Flyer

A skilled fire mage can heat the interior of a specially-crafted tube in such a way that it creates a powerful jet of heated air. Adding a pair of spun glass wings produces a dangerously unstable flying machine. Most people consider using one to be evidence of a disturbed personality.


There are four primary subcultures in Thunia, centered on the Palace, the Town, the Monastery, and the Wilderness.

These classifications intersect with geographical differences to produce a wide range of social environments. For example, homes in Sharzen are generally built out of stone, or else in old mine tunnels, whereas Tendsen buildings are usually made from brick.

The mainstream culture of Thunia has many things in common. There is one common language across all of the regions, though accent and vocabulary change enough that most people can tell a person’s origin from hearing them talk.

Subculture: Palace

Every settlement of significant size has a palace, where the members of the ruling noble house reside. Most of them are secure, walled compounds, though small ones might be a single fortified building. This is where the city’s military, political, and economic decisions are made.

Women who are not interested in marriage often find the palace environment more comfortable than spinsterhood in the towns. Generally speaking, men and mafacts are not allowed to reside within a palace, and do not fit easily into its social structures.

Larger towns usually have more than one palace, but only the one belonging to the local ruling noble house is called “the palace.” The others are referred to as “enclaves” and serve diplomatic and commercial rather than governmental functions.

Life in a palace is highly ritualized. As the business of governance goes on, everyone is conscious of status, standing, and propriety. There are rules for who enters a bath first, and leaves first; how people are seated for formal meals, and proper forms of address for formal and informal situations.

Dress in the palace, for anyone but servants, is focused more on comfort and status display than upon practicality. Fashions tend to be fairly exhibitionistic, and are often designed to show off one’s fitness both physically and socially. The higher a person’s status, the more individualized her clothes will be, with the lowest ranks wearing uniforms. Details vary from one noble house to the next.

The cultural center of any palace is its baths. The traditional Three Worlds bath is constructed of a pair of fountains, one hot and one cold, whose waters can be directed into a series of pools to set them at different temperatures. This is where any important social event begins and sometimes ends. Most people don’t think about it much, but the underlying reason for this is the establishment of social status; the running water of the bath makes maintaining magic spells difficult, and nude bathing allows for verification of which gender a visitor is truly a member of. There are extensive customs associated with bathing.

Conflicts are often resolved in duels, with mechanisms differing from one noble house to another, but they always involve magic. Some give advantage to one specialization of magic over others, some are more lethal than others, but all of them recognize magic as the core of political power.

Most palaces are cauldrons of intrigue and social maneuvering. Simply being a member of a particular clique or social circle is not generally seen as evidence of sympathetic feelings for that group; what one says and does is seen as far more important than merely who one hangs out with or talks to. After all, one could easily be gathering information, seeking allies, or sabotaging that group on behalf of someone else.

Larger palaces often include academies where young madias are trained to use their magical skills, and to perform the function for which they will be employed. This education tends to discourage original thinking in favor of dogmatic adherence to established principles. Such things belong in the monasteries. Disruptive ideas are not welcome.

Beside its government function, the palace is also a protected place for performing magic. They generally have one or more ritual spaces, isolated from the rest of the palace, where groups of madias and mavins can assemble to work their spells. Details vary from one house to another, but they are generally close to comfortable rooms where practitioners can work off the arousal that their spells invoke, and also to the baths where they can clean off after their urges are sated.

Sexuality is very open within a palace. Generally speaking, it’s considered a faux pas to impose oneself, sexually, on a member of a subordinate social class but exploitation does happen. Anyone who does this is strongly looked down upon but it’s not considered criminal, and the penalty depends a great deal on the ruling matriarch’s whim. Femininity is generally considered attractive in palace subculture; anyone who looks more like a man, such as wearing masculine clothes or being flatchested, will often make people subtly uncomfortable, as it conflicts with their subconscious expectations.

Dress often emphasizes the bustline and genitals, not so much for sexuality but as a display of membership in the social order. Clothes are easily put on and removed, and made of fabrics that can be kept clean easily. In warm regions, may be exposed. Servants usually wear more practical garments.

Status, in order from highest to lowest:

  • Matriarch – hereditary ruler of the domain.

  • Heirs – high-born mavin offspring of the matriarch

  • Councilors – high-born mavins (who may or may not be relatives) who advise the matriarch

  • Officials – high-born madias or honored mis-born mavins who hold formal office within the palace

  • Functionaries – Clerks, guards, etc, generally serving under an official. May be madias or mis-born mavins.

  • Servants – Women who perform manual labor within the palace; cooking, cleaning, etc.

Of course, within these broad categories are all sorts of other distinctions.

Subculture: Monastery

The monasteries of Thunia are not like monasteries on Earth. They’re a bit more like Area 51; remote, secure places where people do dangerous, secret things.

Most monasteries are overseen by a small group of mavins, often mis-born that have been given the job as something to keep them busy, or else those who enjoy being pregnant, a luxury most high-born mavins cannot indulge.

Like palaces, monasteries are secure locations. They are all located in the spires on Thunia’s corners, accessed by tunnels leading to the neighboring regions. The land near these tunnel entrances are farmed by men who prefer not to marry women, as it is a more welcoming environment to this lifestyle.

Monastery buildings are erected on the wide shaft of the fundament spires, generally from stone quarried near the tunnel entrances. They have baths for the same reason palaces do, but they are generally not as elaborate.

It may seem odd to trust the most potent magics Thunia can devise to prisoners, but most of the folks living there don’t think of themselves that way. They are usually brought in from a very young age, and brought up to value their role in advancing the magical sciences. Collectively, they wield a great deal of power in Thunian society, though it requires a giving up a good deal of personal power to get it.

Each monasteries is headed by a small group of mavins. These are usually either mis-born, or the high-born that desire the job. They almost always have the “Manipulates Magic Itself” focus because of the need to be able to control magical energies within the monastery. These mavins are tasked with maintaining order, preventing escapes, and retrieving escapees.

Not all of the mafacts who live at the monastery are cut out for research. Some just don’t have the mind for it, though cultivation of scholarship is a large part of monastic upbringing. Those usually find themselves in support roles, as librarians, clerks, and monitors.

Monasteries also have a significant population of bachelor men, those who don’t fit in well with town life. Some of these are merely anti-social, some are criminal, and some are attracted to other men. Their life is hard, as monasteries are not situated on particularly productive land, but they have a good deal of personal independence and generally don’t have to answer to anyone. These men live in the land surrounding the monastery entrances, living by herding or hunting.

Sexuality is not controlled, but it’s also not a focus either. The culture expects that needs are to be satisfied and put aside, not indulged and enjoyed. Dressing or acting in a seductive way is considered inappropriate.

Dress is generally conservative for academics, and practical for support workers. Status is signified by things like medallions or other badges of office.

While the culture of the monastery is highly constrained physically, intellectually there is a great deal of freedom. People are encouraged to read, write, and research whatever they feel driven to pursue.

Status, in order from highest to lowest:

  • Archimand: head of the monastery. Always a mavin, appointed by agreement of noble houses.

  • Hegumars: Assistants to the Archimand. Always mavins. Sometimes born of the Archimand, sometimes sent there from other noble houses.

  • Priors: Highest rank that mafacts can rise to; these are trusted supervisors of research projects. Some of these are mavins.

  • Sibiles: Monks who are assisting on a research project. Some of these can be men, but most are mafacts. Only the lowest of mavins would find herself at this rank.

  • Oblate: Members of the order who do not work on research, such as. herders, hunters, and crafters. These can be mafacts, or men.

Subculture: Town

Every palace has a town surrounding it, and there are also towns with no palace at all. They generally do not have walls, and people are free to come and go as they please. Most men and women live in towns, making their living as crafters, herders and farmers.

The tradition of public bathing exists here as well, though not nearly as ritualized. Instead, the baths are simply places to socialize. Most towns have two baths, one for married couples and families (who are expected to attend together) and one for singles of courting age, though in small towns this may be a single bath with one area reserved for singles. People are expected to visit the baths weekly, if not daily, and anyone who isn’t seen there regularly will suffer some amount of ostracism.

Towns are populated almost entirely by men and women, though a tiny minority of the magical genders can be found hiding among the criminal element. Town life focuses on the family. Unmarried adults are generally considered unreliable and find it difficult to advance in their careers until they are married. A man or woman who is successful enough to support their own household has an even higher social status, and some commoners can become quite wealthy.

Because madias and mafacts are generally not trusted to travel freely, and because mavins are fairly few in number, most trade is performed by commoners. This gives them a good deal of freedom of movement, which means that if conditions in one town or region deteriorate, they generally don’t find it too hard to move on to somewhere else. This effect tends to even out political and economic conditions, as nobody wants their town to gain or lose too much population in a short time.

Sexuality is expected to be limited to one’s spouse. There are exceptions, of course, especially among wealthier families where arranged marriages happen more often. In most towns prostitution is frowned upon as being disruptive to families, but it still happens. workers, as a result, end up getting their protection from the criminal rather than government power centers, and are often entangled in the shadow economy of most towns.

Dress is practical for laborers. Wealthy people sometimes copy palace styles, even to the point of baring the chest, without understanding the purpose of the style. In general, however, modes of dress are fairly simple and conservative.

Status in towns is based mostly on how wealthy your family is, and where in that family you stand. A young person is not generally considered a full-fledged member of a clan until married, and as a result being single for too many years will damage his or her status, and the family’s status.

Subculture: Wilderness

There are always those who are dissatisfied with the status quo, and either want to escape it or obliterate it. In Thunia, these folk live on the fringes of civilization. In areas too marginal to support a large population, small bands of renegades make their camps. These are generally near the barrier walls, where steep slopes and unstable weather make farming unproductive.

Life in the wilderness is not easy. This is the domain of bandits and renegades, those who have given up the comforts of civilization to live free of strict social hierarchies. These are people who value their independence, and are willing to fight to keep it.

There is a constant state of guerilla warfare between the renegades and the noble houses. As a result, mavins are generally not welcome in renegade society, though there have been exceptions. To avoid being caught by noble house patrols, renegades must keep moving constantly, and are often hungry. Their few strongholds are often in the most remote and inhospitable lands, and cannot support many people.

Renegade culture is entirely meritocratic. They don’t care where you were born or what gender you are, the only thing that matters is pulling your weight. Nobody lives easy, and if you become a burden to your band, you will be left behind for the scavengers.

Renegades have to be very careful about using magic. Too much of it, especially in one place, can betray their location to the noble houses. For this reason, mafacts and madias don’t find a great deal of social benefit compared to men and women. They must cultivate more mundane skills.

Nobody much cares who has with whom in these renegade tribes, and the wilderness takes its toll; there is almost always a need for more hands to carry a bow or a gun. People form families in whatever configurations they find convenient or useful, and it’s nobody else’s business. That being said, these bands are small enough that everyone knows who’s getting with whom, and anyone who seems to be risking a disaster child will likely get a stern lecture.

SIDEBAR: Duelling

Duelling in Thunia is an ancient ritual that serves to resolve conflicts between powerful people with a minimum of bloodshed. It gives an advantage to those who are most proficient with magic, both in manipulating energies and in controlling the effects of magic on their own bodies and psyches.

A challenge is usually delivered by messenger, though in the heat of an angry moment a maligned party might announce, “You can expect my challenge in the morning!” and lose face if she doesn’t follow through. Generally speaking, duels are only conducted within a gender; madias challenge madias, mavins challenge mavins, mafacts challenge mafacts. If a madia or mafact feels sufficiently slighted by a mavin, another mavin (usually high-ranking in their palace) might champion their cause to the offender. In addition, only those with an elemental focus are capable of participating in duels; if someone who does not have one finds herself in a duel, she must find a champion to fight for her.

The challenged party may then either remedy the situation, or announce a time and place for the duel. Both the challenge and the response are sent to the local duelkeeper who takes care of the arrangements.

Duelkeepers have their own guild, with at least one member posted to larger towns or traveling a circuit between smaller ones. They generally serve limited terms before being reassigned, in order to keep their loyalties from becoming entrenched.

The duelkeeper visits both parties and seeks to broker a compromise that both can live with. If no compromise is possible, then she will go ahead with the duel, and meet the parties on the agreed-upon location. Duels are usually held in public, though if the matter is delicate the parties might seek privacy. Any relatively clear area, with a fair amount of space, is suitable for a duel, though given the energies that can be released, they’re usually held away from important infrastructure. Many palaces have a courtyard somewhere that is cleared for dueling.

Anyone who fails to show up on time for a duel, through no fault but their own, is considered to have forfeited. It is considered the most cowardly way to lose the duel, and causes enough loss of status to threaten their standing. Few will wish to associate with such a coward, especially given the non-lethal nature of the duel.

Once both parties are present, the duelkeeper makes one final attempt to reconcile the parties. This is usually a formality. After that, the parties take their places on opposite sides of the circle and disrobe, to ensure that no external sources of power are being used.

Then, the duelkeeper brings her staff to the ground three times. On the third impact, the duel begins. The challenger creates a construct in the center of the circle. The exact nature of this construct depends on the magic and personal style of the duelist, but the more elaborate the construct is, the better. The challenged party must then build upon that construct, matching its complexity with more complexity. They take turns, each attempting to outdo the other.

While this is going on, the duelkeeper prepares a counterspell to use if either party loses control of their magic. She keeps a close eye on the duel, to make sure that the two parties are not only in control, but are properly building upon the construct.

These constructs usually become quite intricate very quickly. The concentration required to maintain the spells and prevent them from running out of control is extreme. In a matter of minutes, sometimes even only seconds, one party or the other concedes, and withdraw their support from the spell. The other then demonstrates her victory by adding one final flourish, and then withdraws as well. This is considered an honorable completion, and affords the losing party some pride in at least performing well.

A worse result occurs when a duelist overestimates her capability, and loses control of the spell. The duelkeeper will then try to counter the spell, and if this works the loser is lucky; injuries are unlikely. If this counterspell fails, then the resulting catastrophe is likely to be highly destructive. Anyone who loses control this badly is generally considered a danger to themselves and others, and if they survive the duel, generally lose any social standing they have. If it goes particularly badly, the duelkeeper’s guild may ban them from participating in duels for some period of time, from five years to life.

Occasionally (and it happens more often in stories than in actual duels) the two duelists will finish the duel in such a deep state of need that they will engage each other right there on the dueling ground. For this reason it is traditional for prepared dueling spaces to have pillows, cushions, a chair or even a bed near to hand for such events. They are usually brief, frenzied, and uncomfortable for both parties afterwards.

In play, a duel between a PC and an NPC is represented by a series of intellect checks. The difficulty of the first check is equal to the NPC’s tier. Each successful roll forces the npc to spend three health in response. The NPC may spend five health instead, and raise the difficulty of all further checks by one. If the PC fails a check, she must either concede the duel or increase the level of effort by one to try again. The duel continues until one party or the other cannot continue. A minor effect decreases the duel difficulty by one. A major effect means the opponent has lost control of the spell, forcing the duelmaster to end the duel. A GM intrusion

Noble Houses



Magic Specialties




Air and Earth




Mind and Earth

Libraries, records

Minor; Grand Alliance


Earth and Life


Grand Alliance


Power and Earth


Grand Alliance


Various Elemental




Mind and Air

Speech, Song



Power and Air

Magical Barriers



Life and Mind




Life and Fire


Minor; Grand Alliance


Air and Life

Weather, Herding



Fire and Power

Industry, Factories

Grand Alliance


Water and Mind

Drugs and dreams




















Recently destroyed


Major Alliances and Rivalries

The great power that has risen on Thunia in the last hundred years or so is the Grand Alliance, between houses Tendsen, Ambekrinn, Vamarr, Rulith and Worekhal. Until now they have been consolidating their power in the regions where they are strongest, but now that that is complete, they are looking for new areas of expansion. The other houses are all preparing for a possible future conflict, all of them trying to look like the least-likely candidate.

Sharzen has done little to prepare militarily, but in diplomatic circles they have threatened to cut trade ties with the Grand Alliance if it makes trouble for them, so they have turned their attention toward Calden.

Sidebar: Conquest in Thunia

Wars in Thunia are never overtly military. Armed forces are maintained in order to keep citizens safe from bandits and renegades and otherwise keep order, but for the most part it is much more efficient to induce people to leave a town than it is to actually them. If a town loses its trade routes, one of three things will happen; either its rulers will be replaced, they will change allegiance, or the populace will desert them.

As a result, a campaign to capture a town focuses on convincing its commoners that life under a different banner would be an improvement. This can mean subtle acts of sabotage, or artificially improving conditions in nearby towns that have a differing allegiance.

House Sharzen

House Sharzen’s region is rocky and mountainous, in the cold southern half of Thunia. To the north is the region held by Quintosen and Nandaselor, to the west is the ocean region of Saala, and to the east is the westernmost region held by Calden.

They have strong trading relationships with all of their neighbors, but none of those are strong enough to warrant calling them alliances. The fact that it has no strong alliances also keeps it relatively free of strong rivals. Its primary source of conflict is the bands of renegades that hide in the rough terrain. This constant low-level conflict keeps them too busy to get involved deeply in outside affairs.

To escape the severity of the weather in their lands, most House Sharzen towns and palaces are underground, out of the wind and snow. Their homes are lit, warmed, and ventilated by complex systems of pipes worked into the ceilings of their tunnels that conveys warmed air from deep within Thunia, and conducts sunlight down from collectors on the surface through fibers of spun glass.

The elders of House Sharzen are fiercely independent, and can afford to be so, given how hard it would be to conquer their holdings. They don’t make the only steel in Thunia, but they make the best, and if you’re involved in metalwork you’ll deal with them sooner or later.

Most folks in Sharzen wear leather or fur, as fabric must be imported and is more expensive than elsewhere. Jewelry is quite common, and even the lowest mine worker can be found sporting bracelets and neck-wear of intricately twisted copper wire, a common handicraft. Physical strength is considered more aesthetically pleasing here than elsewhere, and fashions often show off well-muscled shoulders and thighs.

Sharzen’s position makes it a fairly wealthy house, which is a good thing because laborers have to be well paid to work in such a dismal place.

Benefits of Membership: House Sharizen has perfected the art of magically transforming raw fundament into metal or stone. Anyone with the Earth version of the focus “Evokes Elemental Forces” can, in lieu of gaining a new skill, take the power “Fundament Forging.” This is a Tier 1 power that allows you to transform a mass of fundament into any metal (lead, iron, tin, copper, gold etc.) at a cost of 1 intellect per pound converted. Each use of the skill after the first before taking a 10-hour rest requires an additional level of effort.

House Rulith

House Rulith has only a small holding in the northernmost corner of the region held by House Vamarr.  

House Rulith was a fairly obscure cadet branch of House Vamarr until about two hundred years ago, when Harnik Rulith invented a method of inscribing incredibly small text into slabs of purified crystal, and reading the text back again. This permitted the creation of durable, high-density texts that could survive the calamities that regularly brought down monasteries. The benefit of this process was demonstrated when the records of the Urkabisen monastery were recovered from its ruins, allowing other researchers to learn from their mistakes.

It is not uncommon for a wealthy palace to own one of the elaborate crystal-reading machines built by House Rulith, and to employ chroniclers trained there. As a result, House Rulith’s wealth has grown steadily. As members of the Grand Alliance, these chroniclers are sometimes seen as something of a threat to a palace’s secrets, but the value of being able to keep secure records is generally seen to outweigh the risks. They have only a few enclaves, all within cities of the Grand Alliance. They have only a few towns of their own, in areas that had been the supporting lands of Urkabizen monastery.

Many of the commoners in House Rulith are loggers, as the land granted to was heavily wooded. Even after two hundred years of harvesting, more than fifty percent of the region’s timber remains standing. There has been some talk of curtailing this activity, to preserve more of the timber, but there is great pressure from the rest of the alliance to make as much wood available as possible.

The relative youth of its settlements gives it something of a frontier feel, in spite of the scholarly focus of the house’s activities.

House Rulith specializes in recording, collecting, indexing and preserving knowledge of all kinds. With the manufacture of crystal-reading equipment subcontracted to House Tendsen, they focus instead on scholarly pursuits. Unlike at a monastery, House Rulith doesn’t do original research; they store, catalogue, collate, cross-reference, and retrieve.

Benefits of Membership: In lieu of taking a skill, members of House Rulith who have the Earth version of Evokes Elemental Forces may take the tier 1 power “Crystal Scribing.” This spell costs 1 intellect and allows the user to inscribe up to one thousand words into a specially prepared book-crystal. This takes approximately one hour. Each level of effort increases the rate of scribing by one thousand words. Words can be obliterated at twice that rate. Altering a book-crystal undetectably pit the forger’s skill against the examiner’s any time the document is examined.

House Ambekrinn

House Ambekrinn controls the most fertile region of the Grand Alliance, a broad plain in the northern half of Thunia. They are between the regions held by Vamarr to the west and Tendsen to the east, north of tthe region held by Calden. They have been a part of the alliance from the beginning. Any major town of the Grand Alliance that isn’t part of has an Ambekrinn enclave to help improve the fertility of the surrounding fields.

Their specialty in farming gives the nobles of House Ambekrinn a closer relationship with their commoners than is found in most other houses. As a result, other houses see them as somewhat less sophisticated. At the same time, everyone needs food, and the Grand Alliance is more dependent upon House Ambekrinn than anyone would like to admit.

House Ambekrinn’s mages are the acknowledged masters of soil magic; they can determine to a high degree of precision what to add or remove from a field to maximize yields, and any farmer in their holdings can expect a visit from a madia once or twice a year to check on them. If a field becomes contaminated, a group of them can perform a ritual to purify it.

Fashions among House Ambekrinn’s nobles have two modes, one for field work and one within the palace. Field clothes are sturdy, easily washed, and are quite modest, with long trouser legs and long sleeves. They have few decorations beyond emblems of office. Palace clothes, in contrast, are brief, loose and flowing, often made of fine natural fibers like linen or cotton. They are usually Tendsen-weave in bright colors and intricate patterns.

Benefits of Membership: Members of House Ambekrinn may take the tier-1 power “soil analysis” in lieu of a skill. This power, which costs 1 intellect per 100 square meters analyzed, not only will tell the caster what alterations need to be made to make the soil most fertile for which crops, but may also give other clues such as to what kind of creatures may have passed through it recently.

House Vamarr

While Vamarr holds their own region in the northern portion of Thunia, a region of lakes and canals through flat land that had long ago been a swamp, their canals stretch through Ambekrinn and Tendsen all the way to the cold ocean of Saala, distributing water throughout the Grand Alliance.  Their region borders the region holding Quintosen and Nandaselor to the west, Abekrinn to the east, and Calden to the south.

The preeminent house in the Grand Alliance is House Vamarr. They are experts in large-scale stone construction. Mostly, they use their rituals in water projects, creating dams, aqueducts, spillways, canals, locks and pipelines. While this has created a great deal of prosperity for people living along the rivers and canals, it also means that if you want to move goods along them, you have to deal with Vamarr.  

They love letting you know it, too. House Vamarr is well known for being snobbish about their wealth, and for good reason. They dress in some of the most extravagant fashions, build baroque, lavish palaces, and treat those they consider beneath them (which is just about everyone) with disdain.

It’s easy to paint House Vamarr as the villain in the political environment of Thunia, but they don’t squeeze hard enough to crush. Folks in the Grand Alliance, all the way down to the commoners, are better off than they are in most other houses. They’ve been at this for a long time, and they know how to manage things in a sustainable way.

But don’t let them think you’re not grateful.

Benefits of Membership: [TBD]

House Leinteksen

House Leinteksen has no lands of its own. Instead, they maintain small enclaves in the larger towns, that serve as recruiting and training centers for their primary business: mercenaries.

It is not a simple thing, to fight and use magic at the same time. Maintaining concentration on a spell in the midst of combat is difficult enough; add in the distraction of arousal and it takes a particularly disciplined mind to keep things from getting out of hand in a nasty way. House Leinteksen specializes in training this sort of discipline. Trainees are forced to perform complex, tedious, or demanding actions, using magic, without losing control, and without the usual breaks for ‘relief’ that most houses allow liberally.

This has made demand for Leinteksen mercenaries nearly universal, as they are some of the most dangerous fighters in the world. Generally, the house maintains a policy of only hiring on to defensive positions, in order to avoid circumstances where two groups of Leinteksen guardians would be fighting each other.

Leinteksen architecture is utilitarian and uniform, built to standard designs that have been proven by long use, so that a Leinteksen soldier will always find it familiar, no matter where they are stationed.

A noble of House Leinteksen is almost never without her armor and weapons. The fact that it’s nearly impossible to have while wearing it is considered a mark of discipline rather than a drawback. More informal garb, when needed, is usually of local manufacture.

Benefits of Membership: Members of House Leinteksen may, in lieu of a new skill, may take an extra point of intellect edge, due to their unusual degree of focus in battle.

House Morm

Three hundred years ago, House Morm was the a powerful, respected house. They had developed a system for long-distance mind-to-mind communication that allowed messages to be passed reliably over long distances using carefully trained and disciplined adepts of mind magic. The service was essential to trade and diplomacy, and earned the house gold and respect across the world. Every town of any size had a Morm enclave.

That’s not to say that everyone trusted them, exactly. Most folks sent their messages in an encrypted form, just to be sure that House Morm wasn’t collecting and collating the information for its own ends.Besides, Mormites were always a bit creepy; quiet, controlled, and dour.

Then came the Moment of Emptiness.

All at once, across Thunia, nearly every Mormite practitioner fell into a catatonic stupor. No spell could revive them, no healing repair them. The only ones to escape were junior trainees in an isolated town, the only one Morm held for itself. An investigation soon uncovered a secret ritual that was intended to make mind-puppets of major house leaders across the world, which appeared to have failed. When word got out, Morm enclaves were attacked, looted and even burned to the ground.

The only ones to escape the devastation lived in that small training colony. They were led by a single mavin, Staraska Morm, who immediately traveled to the capital of House Calden, the nearest major house, to beg for the survival of their house. Clearly, those who had participated in the attempted crime had paid the price, could she not spare their poor house? House Morm came under the protection of Calden, and until this day it has remained a shadow of its former glory.

House Morm works hard to shed the image of its forbears. Their palaces have become hospitals for treating the mind-sick who can be healed, and locking away those that cannot. They temper their calm with compassion.

It is rare to see the white and blue woolen robes of House Morm outside of their enclaves, and when they are it is usually to consult on a delicate psychiatric case. As such, their presence evokes a whole new sense of unease.

Benefits of Membership: One of the most deeply held secrets of House Morm is that their mental domination spell has not actually been lost. This knowledge is passed down among the higher ranking members, never written down for fear of discovery. In lieu of taking this skill, a member of House Morm of at least tier four, with the “Enchants the Mind” focus may learn this spell. 

Domination (6+ intellect points). You control the actions of a creature you touch for ten minutes. The target must be level 2 or lower. Once you have established control, it will do as you command, though if it is clever it might attempt to subvert your orders. Instead of applying effort to decrease the difficulty, you can apply effort to increase the maximum level. When the effect ends, the creature remembers everything that happened.

House Elindris

House Elindris is tiny, but holds a highly significant, strategic position. It controls several of the tunnels on the edges of the Grand Alliance. While its military forces are miniscule, its mages are experts at magical barriers; crossing the tunnels they control is impossible without their permission.

Historically, they have made their living by keeping the trade routes between regions secure from bandits for all who wish to traverse it. Frequent patrols not only make sure that nobody is sneaking through who doesn’t belong there, but keep numerous eldritch walls charged with magic.

House Elindris has one major settlement, which is a commercial center more than anything else. Its warehouses, homes and businesses are generally constructed of stone, mostly rough-hewn and mortared rather than magically extruded. It’s not known for grand architecture.

House Elindris is known as having “palaces without towns” as very few men or women live and work near Elindris settlements. They only need a few to work at warehouses and shops, whereas the House needs as many madias as it can support to maintain the barriers and patrol the surrounding areas. This difference is understandable on a practical level, but it also causes most other houses to see them as strange and iconoclastic.

With the wide range of goods that pass through House Elindris it’s not surprising that there’s little uniformity in dress. People generally dress in what they can afford, bought from the goods of whichever passing merchant catches their eye. They have few crafterfolk of their own.

The development of airships, which can cross the shard-walls without using the tunnels, has the leadership of House Elindris concerned. If House Calden shifts trade away from the tunnels, their house will suffer.

Benefits of Membership: In lieu of taking a skill, members of House Elindris who have the Air version of the Evokes Elemental Forces focus may take the following tier-1 power:

Wall of Air (2 intellect). You can weave your magic binding air together to form a resilient shield. This wall is up to three yards wide and high, and will take up to 10 points of damage before dissolving. Each level of effort can either double the dimensions or add 5 points of health and 1 armor. Another level of effort can create complex shapes that could be used as battlements, a ladder, etc. but the shape is always essentially two-dimensional.

House Nandaselor

House Nandaselor and House Quintosen share a region in the northern half of Thunia, the only one that is not part of the Grand Alliance. Their region is a dense jungle that they adamantly refuse to harvest for wood, instead shaping the living trees to make their homes. Their borders are Tendsen to the West, Vamarr to the east, and Sharzen to the south.

The mavins of House Nandaselor do not have grand plans for world domination or conquest, nor are they interested in expanding their modest territories into the wilderness. Their architecture is elaborate but not what you would call grand. They do not seek achievement in a material sense.

Instead, their ambitions lie in the perfection of the art of pleasure. While this is not limited to pleasure, it is that form of hedonism for which they are most widely known. They maintain enclaves in most cities and many large towns, providing the most sublime experiences for those who can meet their price. Traveling practitioners often visit the smaller communities on a fairly regular basis.

appetites are not the only ones they seek to satisfy, however. They also train the most skilled chefs, vintners, brewers and perfumers. Their skill at musicianship and dance is unmatched.

The house is not granted much respect by other houses. They’re nice to have around, but are not considered useful allies, nor are they threatening as enemies.

Benefits of Membership: Because of their familiarity with pleasure in all its forms, members of House Nandaselor may recover an extra point of intellect when they rest. In addition, anyone who engages in activity with them may also gain an extra point of intellect.

House Calden

House Calden controls the largest land area on Thunia, but as it is a relatively cold, dry, rocky landscape, they cannot support a huge population. Their two regions are both in the southern half of Thunia, with Sharzen to the west and the ocean Saala to the east.

House Calden is the master of weather magic. Their farmland never has hail, their cities never have tornadoes, and floods are unheard of. Storms are shunted into the hinterlands, where the rain can be caught and channeled without having to worry about destruction of infrastructure. Their waterways are not as well-engineered as they are in the Grand Alliance, but they also have less stress to deal with.

Historically, House Calden has been an agricultural power, focused primarily on various animal products such as wool, leather, and spider silk. Recently, they have achieved a breakthrough in the production of lighter-than-air gas, and have begun launching a series of hydrogen-filled silk balloons to send on trade missions across Thunia. With the wind at their command, they are completely steerable, and the light, strong fabric gives them good cargo capacity and excellent speed. The inability to interfere with their shipments is putting a whole new spin on how trade is done.

Back at home, House Calden is betting all their chips on this new technology. They are training crews and weather mages and breeding spiders as quickly as possible, leaving other concerns with minimal support. Their process for making lift-gas in large quantities is a secret they are guarding jealously.

House Calden’s lands are rather cold, and most people go about dressed in heavy wool garments. Dyes are expensive, so you can tell the wealthy from the poor by the colors and patterns used in their clothing, with imported precious metals and stones used sparingly.

Benefits of Membership: A member of House Calden with the Air version of the Evokes Elemental Forces focus may, in lieu of a skill, take the power “Direct Airship.” This spell allows the mage to direct the winds to blow an airship in a chosen direction at up to five miles per hour. Each level of effort can increase the speed by five miles per hour. The spell lasts for one hour.

House Worekhal

For centuries, every city welcomed the healers of House Worekhal. Their depth of knowledge, both in magical healing and mundane treatments was unparalleled. They claimed almost no territory, content to maintain a small holding for the purpose of training their healers in an austere environment.

That ended a hundred years ago, when House Worekhal joined the Grand Alliance. Rumors have spread of poor people going into Worekhal enclaves and never coming out; of dark experiments and secret liaisons with Alliance spies. Some cities have expelled Worekhal, others have put them under very careful surveillance, and restricted their movements outside of the enclave. Whether this suspicion is warranted or not, it’s clear that joining the Grand Alliance has been a mixed blessing at best.

The truth of the matter is that House Worekhal had little choice in joining the Grand Alliance. Their small holding suffered grievous damage and loss of life in an earthquake, and the only group in a position to assist was House Vamarr. Quiet rumors within the house have roused suspicion that the earthquake was somehow triggered by Vamarr mages, but such a thing would require a more powerful ritual than most believe is possible. Still, the rumors persist.

Healers of House Worekhal can be recognized by red and white striped sleeves. Their clothes are usually woven of wool, with few ornaments except for badges of office, and even these are more likely to be made of polished brass than gold or silver.

Within the Grand Alliance, Worekhal has adopted the Alliance’s style of grand architecture, making them even more dependent upon Alliance mages for repairs and upkeep.

Benefits of Membership: House Worekhal healers are the best in Thunia. In lieu of a skill, they may gain an asset, “Worekhal Healer” which lowers the difficulty of any use of the “Shapes Living Things” focus for healing.

House Tendsen

This house controls a relatively small cluster of towns but their wealth and influence is felt across Thunia. They have laid aside all thoughts of self-sufficiency, in order to become the world leader in manufacturing. They craft most of the finished goods used in the Grand Alliance.

This was viewed with some suspicion in many quarters, even within the Grand Alliance, in that House Tendsen had traded away clean air and water for its success, not to mention the sense of craftsmanship that comes from creating something in a workshop rather than an assembly line.

STORY SEED: An agent returning from Ardeyn has found out about the environmental problems that industrialization has caused on Earth, and worries if Tendsen is going down the same road.

Architecture in the towns of House Tendsen is mostly constructed of brick, with a spare, utilitarian style to all but the most important buildings. The streets are wide, and often paved with brick as well, to make room for the numerous carts and wagons that carry goods and people from place to place, but a thoroughfare is as likely to be a canal.

Commoners wear sturdy clothes of wool and leather with lots of pockets for tools and incidental supplies. A “Tendsen Shirt” has multiple places where it can be unbuttoned, rolled up or pulled aside for ventilation in the hot environments many of these jobs entail. Palace folk also wear wool and leather, but without the practical touches.

Benefits of Membership: House Tendsen communities tend to have much more in the way of material goods than others. Any attempt to use Community skill to obtain ordinary manufactured goods is one level easier.

House Quintosen

Where House Nandaselor caters to pleasures of the body, House Quintosen caters to pleasures of the mind. They craft finely engineered experiences, by means of carefully distilled drugs made from exotic plants and animals gathered from all over the world. Drugs, hypnosis, and a subtle touch with magic are combined to grant the visitor whatever experience she desires.

In many cities, the enclaves for House Quintosen and House Nandaselor are found in the same neighborhood, often side-by-side or even within the same compound. This alliance is one of the closest in Thunia, to the point that “Quintosen and Nandaselor” is spoken more often than either one individually.

Even so, Quintosen is often seen as the darker of the two. They are not well trusted by other houses, and anyone who patronizes them regularly has a hard time avoiding the assumption that they are falling under Quintosen influence. Of course, there’s always a great allure in taboo.

The Quintosen focus on the inner world is reflected in their disregard for the outer world. They do not build grand structures, or even for that matter terribly many permanent ones. Most of their homes and buildings are made from the local equivalent of bamboo, easily destroyed and easily rebuilt. Only repositories like armories and libraries are constructed with any degree of durability, and even then the structures are mostly devoid of ornamentation.

Dress among House Quintosen is generally practical rather than ornamental, for all levels of society. In their own region, where warmth is not generally an issue, people even go about in the nude, if they have no particular need for covering.

Benefits of Membership: Having experienced much of what the pharmaceutical realm offers, it is more difficult to incapacitate or deceive a member of House Quintosen using drugs. All such use is one level more difficult.

Zambera Monastery

Zambera Monastery is built on the southern spire, with tunnel access to regions held by Calden and Sharzen. It specializes in studying the magics associated with earth, air, fire and water.  It is the largest monastery, with several thousand monks, and an equal number of lay brothers. It is here that the daredevil flyer was invented, and similar devices are on the way.

Yan Monastery

Yan Monastery stands on the northern spire of Thunia, with tunnels connecting it to the regions held by Tendsen, Ambekrinn, Vamarr, and Quintosen and Nandaselor.

The Yan Monastery is home to about a hundred monks, and a few hundred lay brothers. While mafacts of any sort are welcome there, they are best known for their research into life magic. At any one time there are dozens of research efforts going on, into such things as selective breeding of crops and herd animals, healing, and chimerism among felines.

The lay brothers keep pigs and goats, and tend herb and vegetable gardens. Most lay brothers live alone or in small groups, traveling to the trading post at the tunnel entrance once every few weeks.

Great care is taken to keep experiments isolated, so that if something goes terribly wrong, the chambers can be sealed to prevent accidents from spreading. All experimental spell-casting must be made in these secure chambers, while monitors keep guard at a gate where great stone slabs can be lowered at a moment’s notice.

Sourkesen Monastery

Sourkesen monastery is built into one of the equatorial spires of Thunia, accessible via tunnels from Tendsen, Sharzen, and the region held by Quintosen and Nandaselor.

You can’t study mind magic without having minds to work on. That fact makes Sourkesen monastery the smallest; almost nobody wants to go there. The total population is less than a hundred, split roughly in half between monks and lay brothers.

Unlike other monasteries, lay brothers generally serve there for a few years and then depart, rather than making a lifestyle out of it. While in service, they may find themselves the target of a mind spell at any time, warping the senses, subverting the will, altering the memories. They typically go about in groups, checking in with each other regularly to guard against enchantment.

Surviving the experience is seen as a mark of courage and strong will. Veteran lay brothers are often employed as couriers, since the lay brothers of Sourkesen have developed some of the best techniques for resisting mind magic anywhere. The experience also tends to leave them somewhat haunted, and their quirks of behavior can make it difficult to re-integrate into society when returning.

This training is considered the most valuable thing that Sourkesen monastery produces; any research into new methods of mental domination are only useful insofar as they produce more resistant lay veterans. This research is never allowed to leave the monastery. Psychological healing techniques are the purview of other institutions.

There is a rumor that not all of the monks in Sourkesen are mavins and mafacts; that at least one madia has been sentenced there for the crime of using mental domination magic.

One of the most effective means the Sourkesen lay brothers have for defending against mental intrusion is a Sourkesen Song. Three brothers working together sing a complicated song with improvisational elements that require concentration and coordination to perform properly. While affecting three minds simultaneously is not impossible, doing it smoothly enough that the song will not be disrupted is exceedingly difficult. It is not uncommon to find Sourkesen veterans singing these songs long after they have left the monastery.

Sourkesen Veterans: In lieu of taking a skill, veterans of service to Sourkesen Monastery can take the skill “Sourkesen Song.” While two or more veterans sing together, they gain an asset worth two levels of difficulty when resisting magical domination or influence.